The Road Home
Sad to say, but sometimes a musician’s life on the road has ended up permanently on the road. More often than not, this particular tragedy has occurred during the “down” periods, in between gigs, when, perhaps, fate has determined a particular artist needs to just keeping driving all the way home, into the afterlife. Whether it was by car, motorcycle or even bicycle does not really matter. In the end, we’ve been robbed of some very talented musicians on the highways and byways of this world. The following are a list of some excellent artists who tragically took one final spin towards that big garage in the sky.
He had just performed in Britain for 15 weeks, and Eddie Cochran was tired. At age 21, Cochran, a California rocker, had been performing tunes like “Twenty Flight Rock,” “C’mon Everybody,” and his one solid U.S. hit “Summertime Blues,” continuously to a rapturous, enthusiastic British welcome. A young George Harrison, who at the time was playing with a little band that would become The Beatles, made a point to catch Cochran at several of these appearances. On Saturday, April 16, 1960, his tour, which included fellow rock sensation Gene Vincent, finished in Somerset, England. Cochran’s sometime songwriter and fiancée, Sharon Sheeley, was with him on this final leg of appearances. A flight out of London was arranged for the next day, Easter Sunday, and declining an option to take a train down to London, Cochran, Vincent and Sheeley instead caught a taxi. Early on a rain-slicked April 17th, the Ford Consul cab carrying Cochran and the others to Heathrow Airport blew a tire on a wet patch of the A4 motorway near Chippenham, Wiltshire and crashed backwards into a concrete lamp post. The taxi driver and the tour’s manager, Pat Thomkins, both riding in the front seat, were uninjured. Of the threesome in the backseat, Gene Vincent broke his collarbone and some ribs, Sharon Sheeley broke her pelvis, and Eddie was thrown through the taxi windshield headfirst. He died 16 hours later in a hospital as a result of brain lacerations. Eddie’s music went on to inspire not only The Beatles, but was covered by rock bands as divergent as The Move, NRBQ, and The Who, who made a much-requested hit out of “Summertime Blues.”
It should have been a very celebratory day on April 30, 1966. Richard Farina was finally having his first novel he wrote back in the early ‘60s, the cult classic “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me” released this year. Over the prior three years he had recorded timeless folk songs with his wife Mimi, Joan Baez’s sister, including the classic “Pack Up Your Sorrows.” He’d even had Bob Dylan help out on some earlier recordings when Richard lived in Europe. But on this day, his 29th birthday, Farina decided to take to a motorcycle during his party. A sudden accident resulted in the early death of a true folk balladeer who would most certainly have yielded more classics for the generations to come.
Rockin’ Robin Roberts of The Wailers
The Wailers was the name of a band in the Tacoma, Washington area long before Bob Marley coined it as his back-up group. Playing gigs in local clubs, the band gained a reputation for presenting a harder-edge rock sound than was the norm of the time. A young Jimi Hendrix would often catch their act at a nightspot called The Castle. The five-member band went on “American Bandstand” shortly after the release of their moderate hit “Tall Cool One.” But it was their sassy arrangement of “Louie Louie,” which was virtually copied nuance-for-nuance by The Kingsmen, that got them notoriety. They were one of the first “garage” bands ever because they recorded and promoted their own material. Lead singer Rockin’ Robin Roberts kept the numerous dance floors bopping, but by the mid-sixties, he felt their organ and sax back-up sound was being overshadowed by the dawning of the guitar psychedelia era, and so he left the band. In December 1967, while travelling around the Bay Area in northern California, Roberts was killed in an automobile accident. He unfortunately did not get to see the influence his garage band would foster with future Washington State independent bands such as Nirvana.
1971 and 1972
Duane Allman and Berry Oakley of The Allman Brothers Band
Coincidence doesn’t get any grimmer than this. The ‘70s premier southern boogie blues-rock group, The Allman Brothers Band, was the brainchild of brothers Gregg and Duane Allman. Growing up in Florida, the two practiced their musicianship so expertly that, by the late sixties, they had formed a handful of bands together and performed as polished session players for top acts. Duane’s notable contribution to the Layla sessions with Derek and The Dominoes, particularly his stand-out guitar riffs with Eric Clapton on the title track, was the highpoint of his solo talents. Forming The Allman Brothers Band in March 1969, Duane and Gregg, along with 4 other musicians, including bassist Berry Oakley, moved to Macon, Georgia to live and record their albums. On October 25, 1971, the band’s double album “Live At The Fillmore East” went gold, and things looked truly promising for the group. Four days later, Duane joined with Berry Oakley to help celebrate the birthday of Oakley’s wife, Linda. An accomplished motorcycle enthusiast, one who used to tear around Daytona Beach, Florida as a teen, Duane got on his Harley-Davidson Sportster bike later that day, around 5:30, to collect some presents at his home. When he arrived at the Bartlett Avenue intersection, a Chevy flatbed truck with a crane used for unloading lumber stopped square in front of him. Duane could not avoid it and was picked clean off his motorcycle, the bike bouncing up in the air and landing on top of him. His girlfriend and Candace Oakley, Berry’s younger sister, riding in a car behind Allman, frantically called for an ambulance. After three hours of emergency surgery, 24 year-old Duane died at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. Berry Oakley, who had raced to the hospital along with Gregg and other family members, was the most visibly shaken of the bunch by Duane’s untimely death. A little over a year later, on November 11, 1972, Oakley was riding his dark blue 1967 Triumph motorcycle, with his road crew pal Kim Payne on another bike, past the intersection where Duane had met his early demise. About three blocks away, at the intersection to Inverness Avenue, Oakley suddenly was unable to avoid a city bus, slamming straight into the middle of the vehicle. He was thrown from his bike, which in turn, landed on top of him behind the bus. Oakley was able to get up and walk around. He even went home for a brief moment. But, then, Berry became delirious, and after being loaded into a station wagon, he fell unconscious. After being taken to the same Medical Center as Duane, 24 year-old Berry Oakley was pronounced dead. The other members of The Allman Brothers Band suffered their own share of tragedy, most notably Gregg Allman’s drug-riddled depression, his various indictments and a marriage to Cher, before the band rose from the ashes to continue its rock legacy.
Clarence White of The Byrds
The sad demise of country-guitar extraordinaire Clarence White was solely on the hands of one driver, and it wasn’t Clarence. Known for his country-pickin’ licks on both electric and acoustic guitars, White began his early career with his brothers in a downhome-flavored outfit called The Country Boys. They changed their name to The Kentucky Colonels in the early ‘60s and were quite renowned for their professionalism. By the mid-60s, Clarence had tired a tad of bluegrass and was excited about the sounds Bob Dylan was tinkering with. In late 1966, he happened to sit in on a few recording sessions with The Byrds. When Gram Parsons quit the band in July 1968, The Byrds scrambled to find another guitarist. Clarence came aboard and stayed with them for 4½ years until they broke apart in February 1973. Reforming with his brothers as The New Kentucky Colonels, Clarence had just finished a gig near Palmdale, California on July 14, 1973, when a drunk driver came barreling down the road. The Colonels were loading their equipment into their car, and brother Roland tried in vain to jerk Clarence out of the way of the derelict automobile. Dislocating his own arm in the process, Roland and his other brother could only watch in horror as 29 year-old Clarence was struck dead. At White’s funeral, Gram Parsons and other musicians heralded this monumental musician and his talents, and they all joined in to sing one of Clarence’s last notable Byrd’s songs, a wistful, gospel-tinged number called “Farther Along.”
Marc Bolan of T-Rex
As the mastermind and creative force behind the early ‘70s power-guitar boogie band Tyrannosaurus Rex, or rather, T-Rex, Marc Bolan was a pre-eminent rock showman. Like his compadre David Bowie was doing, Marc took to the stage in makeup and glitter to present adoring fans with an evening of glam-rock extravagance. His biggest hit “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” shimmied up the U.S. charts to #10, and his most successful album, “The Slider,” showered record-buyers in guitar exuberance. Ringo Starr led a documentary crew around in March 1972 to film Marc’s concert performance in London for a future movie called “Born To Boogie.” Around June 1973, Marc left his wife, June, and recruited 3 back-up singers for his band, including his future girlfriend, Gloria Jones. Bolan’s career had a steady following in Britain up to the early morning hours of September 16, 1977, when he and Gloria left a restaurant called Morton’s around 4:00 am. Climbing into Marc’s Mini 1275 GT, Gloria drove the two of them home, since Marc did not know how to drive. On a tight bend in the road, the car struck a sycamore tree standing very close to the shoulder of the curve. Gloria was badly injured, and Marc Bolan, just two weeks shy of his 30th birthday, was killed as a result of the crash. The car had been in a repair shop earlier in the week, and authorities found the tires woefully under-pressurized and one of the wheels barely screwed into place. T-Rex was no more, however, several subsequent compilation releases did exceptionally well in the U.K. On April 28, 1981, former T-Rex bassist, Steve Currie, died when his car scuttled off a road around midnight near his vacation home in Val Da Parra, Portugal.
Chris Bell of Big Star
R.E.M., Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, The Replacements. What do they all have in common? They would probably all cite the band Big Star as a major influence on their craft. Forming the band in 1971 with fellow vocalist/guitarist, Alex Chilton, Chris Bell saw the group and its music as an American answer to the favorite Brit-pop groups both he and Chilton adored from the ‘60s. Relying heavily on sweet harmonies and crisp guitar work, the band’s debut album, “#1 Record,” unfortunately tanked after it was released. Bell was discouraged by this reception, he did not wish to tour, and he was, perhaps, a little jealous of Chilton’s star personality overshadowing his, which all contributed to his leaving Big Star behind in 1972. The band, with Alex as its front man, carried on without Chris until 1974, when Big Star finally called it quits. Bell, meanwhile, recorded material for a solo album in Europe. Back in Memphis on December 27, 1978, he was heading home late one night, and suddenly, his car tore into a telephone pole. Bell was dead at age 27. His solo material was finally released in 1992 on the album “I Am The Cosmos.” The ‘80s new wave band The Replacements went on to record an admiration song, not titled “Big Star” or “Chris Bell,” but instead, “Alex Chilton.”
Tommy Caldwell of The Marshall Tucker Band
Toy Caldwell and his younger brother Tommy would often complement each other’s guitar and bass licks in the popular southern country-rock stalwart, The Marshall Tucker Band. When the band’s six members came together in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1971, the idea was to throw a little jazz into the boogie guitar mix, and the group became popular when they toured with their brothers-in-southern-rock, The Allman Brothers. The Marshall Tucker Band hit their peak in 1977 when the million-selling album, “Carolina Dreams,” yielded a top 15 single, “Heard It In A Love Song.” Even though they released a “Greatest Hits” album in 1978, the band’s history was far from extinguished. For Tommy Caldwell, though, days of success were to be short-lived. In late April of 1980, 29 year-old Tommy was riding in a jeep with his younger brother Timmy in the Spartanburg area. The two were caught up in an automobile accident which took Timmy’s life. Tommy clung to his own life for almost a week before he slipped away due to severe injuries on April 28th. The band was devastated and took a long while to regain the will to write music again. By 1984, Tommy’s brother, Toy, split with the band to forge his own group. The Marshall Tucker Band still tours today and has an avid fan base.
Keith Godchaux of The Grateful Dead
Long before Keith Godchaux joined The Grateful Dead, the band had picked up the reputation of catering to the tie-dyed, peace and love-espousing Deadheads willing to follow the group at all their tour spots across the globe. Jamming on everything from Hugh Hefner’s Playboy TV show in the ‘60s to the pinnacle rock concert of the hippie generation, Woodstock, The Grateful Dead kept “truckin’” into the Seventies when Keith Godchaux was asked to be their keyboardist in October 1971. His wife, Donna, soon came aboard as a back-up vocalist in December. Keith and Donna often performed their own material as a duo on the side, when the Dead weren’t on the road, and the husband and wife team released an album in 1975. Whether Keith and Donna chose to leave the Grateful Dead themselves or whether they were asked to go, remains unclear depending on whom you ask, but go they did in February 1979. They formed their own band called Heart of Gold. Two days after his 32nd birthday, Keith went into a recording studio with his new group, and after a promising night of rehearsal, he and a friend drove off in the night. As they went through a toll plaza near the Marin County, California area, their car slammed into the back of a flatbed truck. Keith sustained critical injuries and subsequently died two days later on July 23, 1980. Donna went on to remarry, and as she started to record her own material, she became an accepted member of the Dead family fold once again.
His song “Cat’s In The Cradle” may have been the only recording he saw go to number one on the Billboard chart on December 21, 1974, but everyone will always associate the song “Taxi” with storytelling singer Harry Chapin. A former cabbie himself, the 6½ -minute song, from his debut album, was a thinly-veiled autobiographical tale about a taxi driver named Harry. Chapin’s music, while sometimes heavily-orchestrated, was extremely insightful and literate. Over the course of his career, Chapin performed hundreds of concerts for political and social causes, and he gave much of his time to humanitarian charities. Which makes the events on July 16, 1981 all the more sad of a final note to a worthy, dignified artist. Chapin was gearing up for a summer tour, starting with yet another benefit concert that night, when he got behind the wheel of his 1975 Volkswagen to travel into New York City for a business meeting early in the day. At around 12:30pm, he put on his emergency flashers on the Long Island Expressway and made a move across lanes to exit. A tractor-trailer driver could not stop in time to avoid the Volkswagen and rear-ended the vehicle, causing the gas tank to explode. The truck driver managed to pull Chapin away from the burning car, but, as the medical examiner would later determine, Harry had tragically suffered a heart attack either just before or just after the collision. He was pronounced dead at age 38 a half-hour after the accident. The spirit of Chapin’s humanitarian concerns were carried on through his manager, Ken Kragen, who, four years later, helped assemble artists to sing on the USA for Africa session.
Rushton Moreve of Steppenwolf
Moreve was a bassist in Los Angeles when John Kay put together his initial line-up for Steppenwolf in 1967. The band played several early gigs and began recording almost immediately. Moreve left the band and was replaced by John Russell Morgan but not before he laid down bass tracks for the group’s debut album. In January 1968, Steppenwolf’s self-titled first album hit the stores, and by August of that year, the single “Born To Be Wild” had climbed to #2 on the Billboard chart. The lyrics beckoned listeners to “Get your motor running / Head out on the highway / Lookin’ for adventure.” 13 years later, 33 year-old Rushton Moreve was out with his motor running, when he died in a car accident in Los Angeles. John Kay continues to keep the free-wheelin’ spirit of Steppenwolf alive in the 21st century.
Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley of Hanoi Rocks
From the icy shores of Finland, Hanoi Rocks’ sleazy brand of punk metal tore onto European charts in the early 1980s. The band’s early power rock single, “Love’s An Injection,” topped the British charts, and shortly thereafter, the group replaced their initial drummer with Razzle. Releasing their successful 1984 album, “Two Steps From The Move,” the band ventured to America and hobnobbed with the hard rock denizens of southern California. On December 8, 1984, Razzle was ensconced at an all-day raging party at the Redondo Beach home of lead singer Vince Neil of Motley Crue. Deciding to make a run to the local liquor store, the two musicians climbed into Vince’s red 1972 Ford Pantera around 6:30pm and sped off. Careening around the quiet, small beach community at 65 mph, in a 25-mph zone, Vince suddenly lost control of the automobile, swerving into the oncoming lane, and smashed into a Volkswagen. The driver of the VW spent almost a month in a coma and her passenger suffered brain damage. Vince made it out of his car relatively unscathed, but Razzle was killed after receiving massive head injuries. Neil was charged with vehicular manslaughter, he spent 20 days in jail, paid $2.6 million dollars to the injured parties, served 200 days of community service, and underwent drug and alcohol counseling. Hanoi Rocks disbanded shortly thereafter in 1985, while Neil’s Motley Crue enjoyed three successive top-ten albums in the 1980s, including 1989’s “Dr. Feelgood,” which went to number one on the Billboard chart.
Boon of The Minutemen
Compact, angry, jazzy, howling, hardcore rock was the aural pleasure one got from the powerhouse trio The Minutemen. Formed in 1980 in San Pedro, California, guitarist and vocalist D. Boon, born Dennes Dale, was the driving force behind this underground band. Keeping their songs close to a minute’s length, the group constructed their most ambitious work in 1984 when they released a double album of 40 songs called “Double Nickels On The Dime.” After another well-received album in 1985, the group was finishing up a concert in Arizona on December 22, 1985, when tragedy struck. D. Boon slept in the back of a van his girlfriend was driving, and after awhile, she, too, apparently fell asleep. The van careened off the road, and D. Boon’s spine snapped, killing him at the age of 27. So beloved was this man and his music that, in 1991, the alternative Illinois rock trio Uncle Tupelo named their song “D. Boon” after him.
Cliff Burton of Metallica
They were at the top of their game in 1986. Metallica had spent the last 5 years building a reputation of being one of the most influential heavy metal speed band in the world. Ozzy Osborne had just toured with them earlier in the year. Their masterpiece thrash album, “Master of Puppets,” had gone to number 29 on the Billboard chart. And the group was on a satisfying world tour during the latter part of the year. Then things seriously went downhill quick. On September 26, 1986, the band was in the midst of its Scandinavian leg of the tour, having just played a rousing concert in Stockholm, Sweden. Setting out in the early morning hours of the 27th for Copenhagen, Denmark, Metallica and its crew dropped off to sleep on the two tour buses heading south on a lonely 2-lane road in Sweden. Around 5:00am, when the sun was coming up, just outside the small village of Ljungbly, the bus carrying the band and its tour manager hit an icy patch. Suddenly, the vehicle spun around backwards, slid to the shoulder of the road, and toppled on its side. The band members were tossed from their bunks, and bassist Cliff Burton, only 24-years old, was thrown out the window. The bus settled on him, crushing him dead instantly. Metallica mourned their fallen comrade for a month before reinstating the tour in November. In December 1989, they released a compilation cassette called “19.98 Home Video – Cliff ‘Em All” which sold over 200,000 copies. The band scored a number 1 album ranking in the United States with the release of their 1997 disc “Reload.”
Born Christa Paffgen in Cologne, Germany in 1938, Nico acquired her name when she visited the Mediterranean island of Ibiza when she was 15. A photographer struck up a friendship with her and gave her the name. Modeling took her to New York, where she also sang at the Blue Angel Lounge in the mid-‘60s. Andy Warhol spotted her and incorporated her mystique into a new band he was backing called The Velvet Underground. Recording the landmark 1967 album “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” she soon left the band, striking out with her own folk-rock tunes. As she spiraled into drug use over the years, tripping with Jim Morrison in the desert, her songs became bleaker. By the ‘80s, she performed at numerous live appearances to feed her voracious heroin habit. In 1988, Nico was almost clean of narcotics when she returned to that island of Ibiza again for a holiday with her son. Striking out on a bicycle one afternoon on July 18th, Nico must have had a bad spill because passerbys found her lying by her overturned bike, dazed. She went to the Cannes Nisto Hospital later in the day, but by 8:00 that night, due to untended treatment, she died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Gone was one of rock’s first goth personalities.
Pete de Freitas of Echo and The Bunnymen
Over a decade after Liverpool introduced The Beatles to the world, a smaller, perhaps, less influential band hopped forth from the Mersey area in 1978. Vocalist Ian McCulloch gathered together guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson to form an eclectic rock trio known as Echo and The Bunnymen. “Echo” was actually the name they bestowed upon their drum machine. 11 months after the band’s inception, Pete de Freitas, a drummer from Trinidad, took over “Echo”’s chores. With McCulloch’s penchant to boast, and the band dressing in big hair and camouflage, the antics of the group matched their aggressive, loopy musical chops, which rendered several top ten hits in the United Kingdom. In 1986, de Freitas left for New Orleans to take up with a band called The Sex Gods. He sheepishly returned to England six months later, and the Bunnymen welcomed him back into their fold. Unfortunately, at the tender age of 26, de Freitas died when his motorcycle collided with a car on June 14, 1989. The Bunnymen broke up for a while, another band named Electrafixion was formed, but in the late ‘90s, those Bunnies came back with another album release entitled “What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?”
Allen Collins of Lynyrd Skynyrd
The tragic saga of those champions of southern rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, started with a fatal plane crash in October 1977. Three members of the band died on that day. Guitarist Allen Collins recovered from the wreck and went on to form the Rossington-Collins Band in 1979 with fellow Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington. Their debut album, “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere,” went to number 13 on the U.S. charts in 1980. But tragedy struck Collins again that year when his wife Katy passed away. The Rossington-Collins Band broke up towards the end of 1981, and Allen tried to steer his musical life back on track once again by forming The Allen Collins Band in 1982. Fate, once again, would curse him when, on January 26, 1986, his car ran off the road and crashed into a culvert. Collins’ current girlfriend at the time, Debra Jean Watts, was killed in the accident, and Allen became paralyzed from the waist down. On January 23, 1990, four years after the crash, with only limited use of his upper body and arms, Collins, who had developed pneumonia, died in a Jacksonville, Florida medical center as a direct result of decreased lung capacity inflicted by the accident. The Lynyrd Skynyrd curse carried on in subsequent years with some band members running afoul of the law and other members filing various court actions against fellow bandmates.
Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys
Forming the punk rock quintet, The Dead Boys, in Cleveland, Ohio in 1976, Stiv Bators and his band moved to New York and assaulted the needle-pin club crowds with ugly, nihilistic, raucous, provocative punk songs. The Boys’ “Sonic Reducer,” a moderate punker anthem, was covered in concerts by Pearl Jam in the ‘90s. After the band broke up in 1980, Stiv set about releasing two solo albums and then moved to England to form the goth-rock band, Lords of the New Church, with ex-Damned guitarist Brian James. Relocating back to New York for a spell after the New Church went bust in 1988, led to Stiv’s jumping back to Europe, this time in Paris, France in 1988. Stiv tried to get some more solo work off the ground, but on June 4, 1990, as the 40-year old punker stood on a Parisian sidewalk, he was struck by a car. Stiv, who had lived a life thriving on punk pain and suffering, simply walked away from the scene of the accident and went home. He died later in his sleep.
Paul Hackman of Helix
In the early ‘70s, heavy metal affected not only the long-haired youth of Europe and the United States, but lads in wintry Canada also felt the urge to bang their heads. In the town of Kitchener, Ontario, five such young men pulled together a group to kick out the jams in 1974. Helix was its name, and it took 5 long years until they got around to releasing their first independent LP. Capitol Records finally took notice of them in 1983, when they issued the band’s third album “No Rest For The Wicked,” which picked up some favorable reviews in the U.S. and abroad. Helix dove into the heavy metal spotlight, touring with other, more established rockers, and the single “Deep Cuts The Knife” was a moderate success. They were the first Canadian band to play in an Iron Curtain country, when they performed in Hungary in 1990. The group met with tragedy on July 5, 1992, however, when they finished a concert in Vancouver and began driving home across Canada. The tour van carrying the band members swerved off the road and tumbled down a 40-foot embankment. When the dust settled, 39 year-old guitarist Paul Hackman was dead. In honor of Hackman, the band subsequently recorded a tribute song on their next album entitled “That Day Is Gonna Come.”
Criss Oliva of Savatage
Formed in 1981 by brothers Jon and Criss Oliva, Savatage was a band that tried to distance itself from the other heavy metal acts of their day by combining distinctive orchestrations and tight melodies with their crunching guitar sound. As their album releases increased after their debut LP, 1985’s “Power of the Night,” the band drew in more symphonic elements to their songs and by the time they released 1991’s “Streets,” their power rock now had a full progressive style. Shaking off internal drug problems turned out to be of lesser concern for band members, when, on October 17, 1993, co-founder Criss Oliva lost his life. In the early morning hours, Criss and his wife, Dawn, were driving to a rock festival called “Livestock” near Zephyr Hills, Florida, when a drunk driver crossed the line of the 2-lane highway, attempting to pass a semi-trailer truck, and plowed into Oliva’s car head on. 30-year old Criss was killed instantly, and Dawn spent a long time recuperating. After the passing of his brother, Jon Oliva decided to continue Savatage, and perhaps becoming more cognizant of the fragility of life, spoke to humanitarian concerns, when he released a single “Dead Winter Dead” about the children of the war in Bosnia.
Jack Vigliatura and Bill White of For Squirrels
Clearwater, Florida high school buddies and, then, university friends, Vigliatura and White, joined a 4-member band in 1993, and subsequently dropped out of their college studies to hit the Florida club circuit. Two years of gigs got them noticed by Sony music, who signed the band in 1995 and released their debut album, “Example.” Critics cited For Squirrels for their storybook-like songs that ran the gamut from thrash to guitar pop. The band went to New York and played a solid show at the famous C.B.G.B. club. On the afternoon of September 8, 1995, the band and their manager, Tim Bender, were riding back to Florida from New York on Interstate 95. About 50 miles south of Savannah, Georgia, a tire suddenly blew out and their van flipped over. 21-year old singer Vigliatura, 23-year old bassist White, and 23-year old Bender perished at the scene. The two other band members survived. For Squirrels made a point to continue to make club appearances in the late ‘90s.
Rob Collins of The Charlatans
As part of the popular Manchester, England sound of the ‘80s, which produced other bands like Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, The Charlatans captured a fan base who adored their modern dance music sound. Inspired by the mod and psychedelia tunes and attitudes of the 1960s, The Charlatans faded from sight around the end of the decade. In 1992, keyboardist Rob Collins was arrested and jailed for his part as a getaway driver in a botched armed robbery. He served 4 months of an 8-month sentence before being released. The band sighed in relief and began recording again. By mid-1996, they returned to the charts and were tapped to be special guests on an Oasis summer tour. Their keyboardist was not to join them. Late on the evening of July 22, 1996, Collins and his passenger, a sound engineer, were riding in Rob’s red BMW to a recording studio, when the car crashed off the road in the burg of Monmouth, Gwent, England. The engineer suffered from shock, but otherwise, escaped unhurt. The 33-year old Collins died on the way to nearby Nevill Hall Hospital from severe injuries.
Tim Kelly of Slaughter
Coasting in on the heydays of late ‘80s metal mania, the Las Vegas-based quartet, known as Slaughter, formed in 1989 and immediately jumped into the fray. Their anthemic rock sound soon garnered ample hard rock radio airplay and MTV exposure. After the release of their 1991 album, “Wild Life,” hit number 8 on the Billboard chart, other metal bands signed Slaughter to their tour itineraries. Slaughter shared the bill with KISS and Ozzy Osbourne. As the ‘90s wore on, and grunge edged aside metal, Slaughter still continued to play many gigs. During this period, lead guitarist Tim Kelly was finding a way to wriggle out of a messy drug-trafficking incident he had been charged with in a Vegas courtroom. He was soon to be involved in a more deadly conundrum that he would not be able to correct. Kelly and his friend, Alice Montano, spent the early part of February 1998 on a rock-climbing excursion through the southwestern United States. On February 5th, around 5:15 in the afternoon, the two were traveling in a 1996 Hyundai along Arizona’s State Route 96, a two-lane highway. From out of nowhere, a Peterbilt 18-wheel truck crossed the center line and bashed into Kelly’s car head-on. The Hyundai rolled over and struck a third car containing five passengers. Alice suffered minor spinal injuries, but unfortunately, 35-year old Kelly died at the scene of multiple traumas to his head. The band decided to continue on their career path after the accident and released a live album, which Kelly had played on, called “Eternal Live.” The disc served also as a CD-ROM that contained a special tribute to Tim.
“Rock Me Amadeus’ was the worst thing that could’ve happened to me,” Falco said at one time. Born Johann Holzel in Vienna, Austria, he changed his name one day after watching famed skier Falko Weisspflog compete in a ski jump championship. This international rock playboy first gained notoriety on American shores when he wrote and sang the 1983 pop hit, “Der Kommissar,” which peaked at Number 10 on the Billboard chart. A British group seized the song and put English lyrics to it, and that’s how After The Fire managed to squeak past Falco and get to Billboard’s number five spot with the tune. On March 29, 1986, Falco batted one right out of the park with his number-one ranked U.S. hit “Rock Me Amadeus.” The instant, overnight success of the single caused him to worry about a follow-up, and Falco’s ego began, in his own admission, hedging to the cocky side. Top-ten fame would elude him for the rest of his career, and Falco ducked virtually out of sight throughout most of the ‘90s. By 1997, he was back in the studio recording, but before his new album would be released, Falco met with a tragic end. While staying in the Dominican Republic in February 1998, he pulled his jeep out onto a highway near Puerto Plata in the city of Santo Domingo. That day, February 6th, proved to be his last, as a bus slammed into the side of his vehicle, inflicting life-threatening head injuries. The congenial, upbeat, big-hearted pop star, who would have turned 40 in two weeks time, passed away at the Puerto Plata Hospital later that afternoon.
Total professional. Great sense of humor. One of the foremost talented drummers in rock history. All of these statements have been used to sum up the life and career of Colin (Cozy) Powell. Starting his musical life in a band called The Sorcerers in 1965, Cozy went on to play with many of rock’s legendary performers. He drummed on recording sessions with Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Whitesnake, The Michael Schenker Group, and the ‘80s spin-off of ELP, Emerson, Lake & Powell. He backed artists like Roger Daltrey, Gary Moore, Donovan, and Queen’s Brian May. In 1973, Cozy scored a hit single of his own with the U.K.-ranked #3 song “Dance With The Devil.” At the ripe old age of 50, Cozy’s last session work was with Colin Blunstone, former lead singer of the ‘60s band The Zombies. Around this time, Cozy, who loved driving fast cars, was heading down the M4 motorway in Britain late on the night of April 5, 1998. Perhaps due to poor weather outside, he lost control of his Saab 9000 and smashed into the center median near Bristol. He was taken to a nearby hospital but died of sustained injuries. The beat was forever silenced for this master drummer.
James Lynn Strait of Snot
The band wasn’t exactly politically-correct. More South Park than Saved By The Bell. The Santa Barbara-based band, Snot, formed in 1996 and was noted for its obnoxious, loud, hard rock sound. However, their musicianship did quickly catch the ear of several major labels, and by 1997, they were signed with Geffen Records. In May of that year, Snot released their debut album, “Get Some.” Over a year later, while visiting his girlfriend at the Mussel Shoals beach community near Ventura, California, lead singer Lynn Strait pulled his car out across Highway 101 around 12 noon on December 11, 1998. The maneuver was apparently not swift enough because a pickup truck barreled into Strait’s 1992 Ford Tempo, sending the car into the center divider, while the truck overturned farther down the road. The pickup’s driver received minor injuries. But 30 year-old Strait, along with his pet Bulldog, perished instantly in the collision.
© 2000 Ned Truslow